Regular followers of S & A will remember an item I posted a few months ago back in January (HERE) about writer and director Joseph Elmore’s film Because I Love You which is currently now in the final stages of post-production.
As the official synopsis states the films deals with "Cream, an exotic dancer and devoted mother of a beautiful, little girl named Cookie and who's in the midst of a custody battle with her ex-husband, who wants her to stop dancing or give up her daughter. On the very night that Cream has decided to quit dancing, the strip club is robbed by a group of wild animals and she is taken captive and moved to an unknown location where she is beaten and raped repeatedly. They plan to use her and then kill her before they move on to the next city and the next job. The only thing keeping her alive is the care of one of the kidnappers who refuses to let her die and forces her to remember that her daughter needs her."
And, of course, because of the premise I figured that more than just a few people would be more than just a little upset..
Though the film, as well as Elmore, had some defenders, it’s safe to say that most commenters weren't exactly feeling the film and felt that it just reinforced negative stereotypes.
Well, Elmore last week reached out to yours truly, chomping at the bit, to explain and defend his movie which he told me already has several distributors interested in it and I talked to him at length about it
For the record, we had a great conversation and Elmore himself is very likable, very approachable, down to earth kind of guy. But I had to ask him, of course, the obvious question that many of you were no doubt asking: why didn’t he make say more “uplifting and positive” film instead about one with a black female stripper who’s kidnapped and sexually abused?
He responded that: “Because I Love You is an action drama. The movie is not about crime. it’s not about strippers. It is about a woman who is fighting to stay alive for no other reason than to be there for her daughter who she loves desperately. I wrote this movie because I wanted to ask the question: 'Who would you fight to live for?' People say all the time that they would kill for someone. That they would die for someone. But what would you fight to LIVE for? When all else is at its worst and you feel like not going on, you know, it’s like 'Please just kill me', 'Put me out of my misery'. But what would you live for? It’s like I would never want anything to happen to me because I need to know that my son is O.K. Who’s going to be there for him?”
So O.K. then, but why does she have to be a stripper? Why not a teacher, a doctor or just a regular person?
“Well here’s the funny thing about that. What is that saying? It’s American culture now. It’s being real. It’s American culture. Everyone knows a stripper. Everyone’s been to a strip club. You know all about it. So to say that there’s no story that can come out of this is ridiculous.”
But there are many people, especially women, who will say that you are sexually objectifying the female lead in your film by making her a stripper who is raped and abused
“You know that makes me laugh because they want to say that everything is perfect in the world. Everything is great in the world. The only people who have good things to happen to them should have movies made about them. You can’t tell a story about her because she’s a stripper because that isn’t 'positive'. Positivity comes out of negativity. So because she came out of a negative situation we can see something positive come out through that.
"I remember people saying we shouldn’t do “hood” movies. I don’t do “hood” movies, but I would do any story that has a story. So if someone from the hood sees a story and sees something positive happening, then they can see that this can happen to them, that something good can come out of it. And again this is what I’m trying to do with Because I Love You. I’m trying to show that something good can come out of this. This girl does not want to be a stripper. That was not her goal in life when she grew up. Something terrible happened to her and it led her into that direction and she’s here now. And she’s trying to make the best way that she can so that her daughter doesn’t have to do that.”
Which brings up the issue of black imagery in films and do you think that black filmmakers have this particular burden? I don’t think there’s ever been a black film made that every single black people has universally liked. No matter how "positive or uplifting" the film is, there will always be people who will have a problem with it
“(laughs) Yeah it’s a burden, but as a filmmaker you have to accept it. It is what it is. I always say that if 4 people hate your movie and 400 love it and respect it, that’s all you can do. You try to make the best movie that you can possibly make. I agree that we should not be making movies: ‘This is negative, this is negative, shoot people, kill, kill, kill!’ without any responsibility. That makes no sense. And I do agree that if I made a sexual movie there will be people who say: 'Oh My God! Black people having sex! That’s the most terrible thing in the world!' You have Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct and Unfaithful, but if they’re black and sexual it’s a problem.
"For me what feeds into the stereotype is black people. We feed into the stereotype more than anybody because we’re the ones complaining about it all the time. We keep complaining and saying it shouldn’t be done, but no one else is complaining. I’ve never heard a white person saying: ‘Wow! Halle Berry having sex with a white person! This is terrible!’ But black people say it all the time, so who’s feeding into the stereotype?”
And there you have have it. I want to thank Joseph for the opportunity to let me talk with him and I’m sure that many of you will have something to say.